Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Congressional Hispanics Caucus poised to meet with Obama

By Lynn Sweeton
Chicago Sun Times
March 17, 2009

WASHINGTON--The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has a much anticipated meeting coming up with President Obama, probably on Wednesday.

The CHC chairman is Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY). Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is also a member of the caucus. The CHC has a wide ranging agenda. Immigration is always a key issue for the group.

Meeting with a small group of reporters on March 12, Obama, asked about immigration, said he expected to have a comprehensive policy in place in a few months.


Q Thank you, Mr. President, for having us today. Since we're only going to get maybe one shot, I want to ask you a question that's of great concern to the people of my state of New Mexico. And as you're fully aware, Mexico is besieged by drug-related violence. In my state there's a very real concern that this violence will spill over to the border; in a few cases, it already has. What specifically does the administration plan to do to help contain this violence? And on a related note, if there's anything you could say about immigration reform and when we might see some sort of action on that front.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as you know, the first meeting with a foreign leader that I had after my election was with President Calderón in Mexico, who I believe is really working hard and taking some extraordinary risks under extraordinary pressure to deal with the drug cartels and the corresponding violence that's erupted along the borders.

So this past week Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited with his counterparts in Mexico. Janet Napolitano, our director of Homeland Security, a border state governor, has been convening meetings with all the relevant agencies and consulted with the governors down there.

We expect to have a full -- a fully -- or a comprehensive approach to dealing with these issues of border security that will involve supporting Calderón and his efforts in a partnership; also making sure that we are dealing with the flow of drug money and the guns south, because it's really a two-way situation there. The drugs are coming north; we're sending funds and guns south -- and as a consequence, these cartels have gained extraordinary power.

And so, our expectation is to have a comprehensive policy in place in the next few months.

With respect to immigration reform, to some degree the collapse of housing construction in the country has slowed the flow of illegal immigrants coming into the country, but it remains a serious concern. And our approach is to do some things administratively to strengthen border security; to fix the legal immigration system, because a lot of the pressure -- or a lot of the impetus towards illegal immigration involves a broken legal system -- people want to reunify families and they don't want to wait 10 years.

I think we can make some progress on that front, and we've started to talk to all the parties involved and both parties here in Washington about the prospects of taking legislative steps. But obviously we've got a lot on our plate right now. And so what we can do administratively, that's where we're going to start.

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